Legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar, who with friend and fellow musician George Harrison created the remarkable Concert for Bangladesh to support UNICEF relief efforts in that country, passed away yesterday at age 92. “The world has lost a hero,” said Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “Ravi Shankar recognized the power of both music and friendship. He inspired artists and musicians like his close friend George Harrison to understand how their creativity and passion for good could influence others and truly change the world.” In 2009, the U.S. Fund honored Shankar with the first ever George Harrison Humanitarian Award after his concert at New York's Carnegie Hall. This video was created for the occasion.
In 1971, Bangladesh had been ravaged by floods, famine, and civil conflict. Some 10 million people—mostly women and children—had been forced to flee their homes. The Concert for Bangladesh was a groundbreaking event, the first major music benefit concert for a humanitarian cause. The star-studded concert, actually two shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden, featured performers like Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, and Leon Russell, and has raised in excess of $17 million to fund UNICEF's efforts in Bangladesh and around the world.
The event's contribution to the awareness of the plight of people in the strife-torn country was just as significant. “Overnight,” said Shankar later, “everybody knew the name of Bangladesh.”
Shankar, who helped introduce the wonders of Indian classical music to the Western world, collaborated with some of the greatest jazz and rock musicians of a generation. He and Harrison remained close friends in the decades that followed the concert, and both men continued to support Bangladesh.
Today, the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF—a joint undertaking between the Harrison family and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF—supports UNICEF programs in Bangladesh and several other countries. In 2011, Shankar joined with over 70 musicians, including original Concert for Bangladesh performers, Arcade Fire, Monty Python, Elvis Costello, Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Doors, Selena Gomez, The Go-Go’s, Brian Wilson, My Morning Jacket, Nas, Jackson Browne, and others, to help the fund's “Month of Giving” campaign raise over $1.2 million to aid children in the Horn of Africa.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF mourns the passing of this truly exceptional musician and humanitarian. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family.